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New hub to streamline helping homeless people

EVERETT — Some of the most chronically homeless people in camps are addicted to opioids, but often when they agree to get help there is nowhere to place them.
A new county center set to open by March 31 will provide instant temporary placement.
While this is not a detox center, stabilization is described by officials as one key to starting the rehabilitation process.
The center, at the corner of Wall Street and Lombard Avenue,
will have 44 beds for men and women to receive meals, shelter, clothing and addiction counseling on-site. Services would be 24/7. The county is contracting with Pioneer Human Services to handle counseling.
Staying there is voluntary. The usual stay is meant to be up to two weeks.
Once there, a game plan will be made to try to get each individual more permanent placement, including providing case-specific services and care.
Ideally, “we get them into treatment, we get them into low-barrier housing” and onward to jobs and rehabilitated lives, Sheriff Ty Trenary told a House committee in Olympia on Monday, Jan. 8.
Only people who voluntarily accept help will be admitted, and the only people eligible would come from contacts made by social workers embedded with law enforcement, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.
The center is not an alternative to jail, but the sheriff’s office says it can divert low-level offenders into treatment. Many addicts at rock-bottom commit petty thefts.
Officials hope the center also can help stem opioid deaths by guiding people to treatment. The center could serve more than 300 people a year.
The center repurposes the county jail’s work-release program building, which shut down in 2016 because of budget cuts in the sheriff’s office.
Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed $500,000 in this year’s state budget as a one-time payment to make the center
a pilot project. After the first year, if the project proves effective, it would cost Snohomish County $1.5 million annually to continue operations.
Right now, the dearth of services means the county has to take people to other counties and even other states, and more often those sources are saying they have no room left, Trenary said.
There are more than 100 homeless camps in south Snohomish County alone, Cammy Hart-Anderson, a manager in the county’s human services division, told the house committee in Olympia. About 90 percent of the people encountered there are opioid-addicted.
At-the-ready access is crucial to avoid seeing a promising case go awry. The social workers already have a tough time tracking down and convincing transients they meet to come with them to get help.
A central hub for help also saves money as sheriff’s deputies are escorting social workers and their cases to personal appointments.
Snohomish County “has 10 percent of the state’s population but 18 percent of the state’s opioid deaths,” Trenary said at the meeting.
The center targets reduced recidivism, housing stability and increased behavioral health access for chronic abusers, Hart-Anderson said.
Ireton described the center as one piece of a triangle. The other two pieces are repurposing an empty portion of the Denney Juvenile Justice Center, and converting the Carnegie Building downtown into 20 beds of transitional housing.
The Denney program would house people long-term with mental illness and behavioral health issues, as well as treat substance abuse dependency on-site.

Includes material from the WNPA Olympia News Bureau wire service.


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